Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health

Drugs and alcohol

Addiction to drugs or alcohol is a mental illness. Substance use disorder changes normal desires, priorities, and behaviors, and interferes with the ability to work, go to school, and have good relationships with friends and family. In 2014, 20.2 million adults in the U.S. had a substance use disorder and 7.9 million had both a substance use disorder and another mental illness. More than half of the people with both a substance use disorder and another mental illness were men (4.1 million). Having two illnesses at the same time is known as “comorbidity” and it can make treating each disorder more difficult.


Tobacco is another substance associated with addiction and health risks. It can be smoked, chewed or sniffed. However, the most common way people consume tobacco is by smoking cigarettes. Research has shown that adults with a mental illness are more likely to smoke cigarettes than other adults. This is particularly true among people with major depression and those diagnosed with schizophrenia. It is estimated that people with psychiatric disorders purchase approximately 44 percent of all cigarettes sold in the United States. Smoking is believed to be one reason that individuals with mental illnesses have more physical health problems and die younger than people without a mental illness.

Clinical programs at UCSF Psychiatry

Our department integrates substance use disorder treatment services across our entire spectrum of clinical operations at UCSF Langley Porter Hospital (LPPH), Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (ZSFG), the San Francisco VA Health Care System (SFVAHCS), and at locations throughout the Bay Area and northern California. The following programs and clinics are just some of our groups working directly on substance use disorder issues:

Educational programs at UCSF Psychiatry

We are dedicated to training the next generation of leaders in substance use disorder researchers and clinicians. Among our educational programs focusing on addiction treatment and recovery are:

Other Bay Area resources

National resources

These links are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by the University of California of any of the products, services, or opinions of the corporation or organization or individual. The University of California bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.